Pennsylvania Democrats sense that they have the upper hand in the debate over the GOP’s proposed rules change in the State House, and plan a statewide effort to counter the measure this weekend. Democrats will take their case to voters in 18 districts across the state in a paid media campaign to be launched tomorrow.
According to multiple sources in the PA Democratic Party, the campaign to pressure potentially vulnerable Republican State Reps over the issue has already begun in the form of a targeted email campaign.
“We’re doing a program within the next 72 hours to make sure that people in several targeted districts around the state are aware of the question in front of the legislature. And a call to action to hold them accountable to the campaign promises they made just a few months ago.”
Earlier this week, Republicans proposed rules changes that would allow them to send amendments back to committee without tabling the associated bill. Additionally, Democrats would lose a seat on each House committees.
A vote on the proposed changes is rumored to be on the agenda for Monday, though there have already been signs that the GOP may back down.
Democrats charge that a vote for the change would violate Republicans’ campaign promises for open and transparent government. They plan to challenge potentially vulnerable Republicans around the state.
Democrats may be on to something. Editorial Boards, including the Scranton Times-Tribune (House GOP abuses power) York Dispatch (State GOP goes nuclear), have criticized the House GOP over the proposed rules changes.
“So many of the Republican State Reps, recently elected and otherwise, ran on platforms of openness, transparency in government, accountability, and no more back room deals or rules changes,” said another source. “How are they going to react to one of their first votes being on a piece of legislation designed to quash the voices of voters.”
Democrats are hoping that raising the profile of this vote increases the chance that Republican legislators, especially freshmen, will split from GOP Majority Leader Mike Turzai on the issue. The source compared Turzai’s position on this issue with the tough tactics of former GOP Leader John Perzel, notoriously brutal when whipping for votes.
“The previous Republican majority was known for this kind of thing, but this group had pledged not to follow suit. They made promises, voters believed them, and cast their votes for them. Now we’re going to see if they will keep their campaign promises of openness in government.”
The source would not disclose the exact scope and targeted districts of the advertising effort, but the common denominator is that these members promised transparency and open government.
One confirmed target is freshman State Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), a former County Commissioner. Dunbar defeated 12 year incumbent State Rep. James Casorio by 823 votes in November, in part on promises to make government more open and transparent.
“Too much of what is done in Harrisburg is done behind closed doors and by a few powerful politicians. We need to make the state legislature more open and transparent to the public – and we need to take power away from a select few so every legislator has a strong voice,” read his campaign website.
PoliticsPA was unable to reach Rep. Dunbar for comment.
Stay tuned to PoliticsPA as this story develops.
What could make new legislator so suddenly turn his back on his own principles on which he so passionately campaigned? What could make him support rules which serve only to destroy Pennsylvania’s representative democracy? Money. No, not campaign money or lobbyists money — our tax dollars. When a new legislator gets to Harrisburg, the first thing the party leadership tells him is, “If you want to serve your constituents, and actually be provided with the state funds sufficient to adequately staff and maintain a constituency services office, you must first agree to vote in whatever way your party leadership tells you to vote on all legislation.” So, to serve their districts, our legislators must first sell their souls. Welcome to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.